Indiana University Bloomington

University Faculty Council forwards ethics policy, backs Freedom Indiana

  • Oct. 30, 2013

By Jon Blau

In response to the issues facing fellow Big Ten institution Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, Indiana University took a step Tuesday toward finalizing an overarching ethics policy for employees, trustees and other representatives of the institution.

The University Faculty Council, with representatives from IU Bloomington, IUPUI and the university’s regional campuses, voted to forward the ethics policy to the trustees to be finalized during the board’s December meeting. John Applegate, IU’s vice president for university academic affairs, said the policy was crafted to create a general “culture of compliance.”

In particular, the policy sets out a section on promoting “a culture of compliance with applicable laws, regulations and policies,” which outlines expectations about how “community members” -- anyone from the board of trustees and faculty to people using IU resources or facilities -- are expected to know and follow the law. It also sets out how people who observe a violation of the policy are supposed to report such an incident.

Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was found guilty of sexually assaulting boys, some of them in showers in the football building. Though former head coach Joe Paterno reportedly alerted his superiors to what he had heard about Sandusky’s activities, “lack of institutional control” and how information failed to make its way to law enforcement became major liabilities for the university.

“The most pointed and immediate (goal) is our general response to the horrible occurrences at Penn State University, and I think it caused every serious university, which means pretty much everyone, to take a look at a whole range of their operations to make sure that kind of thing can’t happen here,” Applegate said, referencing the University of Minnesota’s ethics policy as the model for IU’s newest version.

The policy says community members should “know and follow applicable laws, regulations, contracts, environmental health and safety policies, and all Indiana University policies and procedures applicable to their university duties and responsibilities” and also asks that they “be proactive to prevent and detect any compliance violations or noncompliant activities” and report violations or noncompliance to supervisors.

Freedom Indiana

The faculty council also voted to reaffirm its 2007 stance against a ban on same-sex marriage as the issue potentially moves toward an amendment to the Indiana Constitution with HRJ6. That bill, if it passes the General Assembly, would put a referendum on the ballot in November 2014 on which Hoosiers would vote on whether to amend the constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Tuesday’s unanimous vote to support Freedom Indiana, the coalition IU joined with an announcement Monday, is just another wave of opposition to the state Legislature’s attempts to define marriage, a debate that stretches back to before President Michael McRobbie’s tenure.

McRobbie touched on the enormity of the decision to join the Freedom Indiana coalition, especially because this made IU the only educational institution in the group.

“My own preference, of course, in working in these matters is to try and resolve these matters quietly and behind the scenes, as is normally the case. We must remember that the Legislature was very supportive of higher education the last session,” McRobbie said. “But I believe this particular matter was at a point where it was important for the university to express its views ... publicly.”

McRobbie said he would like similar resolutions to the one approved by the faculty council Tuesday brought to the student and staff councils.

“I don’t think we should take a stand like this lightly,” he said. “I think the circumstances dictated it for two reason: One, my concern about the lack of tolerance implied in this particular constitutional amendment. The fact it would be a constitutional amendment that would make it extremely difficult to change and move in a different direction.

“And, secondly, it is also a fundamental to the core business, if it were, of the university, which is teaching and researching ... and this would be a statement of an uninviting atmosphere to colleagues we were trying to recruit and would also affect our ability to retain some of our colleagues.”

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.